By Ruchira Hoon
She was barely 4-years old when she started helping her grandmother in the kitchen. Drying out papads and chips out in the sun, is one of the earliest memories of food Chiquita Gulati has. “We used to live in a community where the women cooked together and when the kids came back from school, it was the done thing to help around. We’d shell peas, use the chakla-belan to roll out shapes, ” says this dedicated chef.
At 34, Chiquita is now the chef-owner of Gulati’s Spice Market, a restaurant in New Delhi that serves modern Indian cuisine. Even though the restaurant has been alive and kicking since 2008, the journey hasn’t been easy. Having married into the family that owned the iconic Gulati’s restaurant on Pandara Road this was quite the task.
“To be honest, the restaurant was bleeding like crazy for the first five years. There were licensing issues, staffing issues, name the issue we faced them all,” she says. “Yet, we held our ground and continuing dishing out flavorful Indian food with emphasis on spices from across the country.”
It was just as well, she did because last year, Chiquita went on to win the Top Chef 2015 award organized by the Delhi Gourmet Club for her contribution of Modern Indian Cuisine. “That was truly a moment of reckoning. People were recognizing us for the food we were serving and not just the brand we were associated it,” she adds.
Today, two kids later, Chiquita is proud to be able to pass down her love for cooking to her children as well. “We make a lot of things together. It’s always an activity they enjoy. We make ice creams, roll out doughs in different shapes and finally just have a lot of fun together.”
So what are the three tips she’d like to share with home cooks of today:
- Buy good quality ingredients. Take time out to look at what’s available in the market. Feel, smell and then buy.
- When you are making a new recipe, read the ingredients over and over. Quantities are given for a reason, understand and embrace them.
- Everyone eats with their eyes. Try and make your food as pretty as possible, use fresh ingredients to garnish and style.
Find more of Chiquita’s recipes, here on BetterButter.